Asphalt to Architecture

Tristan Snyder

Civic Futures


Bryan Boyer


The act of driving was one of the defining features of the American experience through the 20th and early 21st centuries. An automobile, guided by the lone individual was, at its best, a liberating thrill of possibility as one exercised pure freedom going 90 miles an hour down the interstate, and, at its worst, a loud, “f*** you”, screamed at the moron causing a traffic jam. The year 2050 is defined by a much different experience…

Instead of worrying about the traffic on the way to work, you enjoy an espresso while reading the morning news about the last glacier melting. The vehicle that was once a metaphor for your life, in which you spent a disturbing portion of your time yelling at complete strangers (sometimes the accidental family friend), is now your publicly owned chauffeur. Today the six seater City Car glides through the streets picking up your commuting neighbors for their daily office job. Stops are fewer, the ride is smoother, and it’s a whole lot easier on the pocketbook.

In this scenario for 2050 many things have changed. The ownership of private vehicles has slowly shifted to a model of publicly shared autonomous transit. This has enabled cities to cut the vehicle right-of-way by nearly 70%, resulting in swathes of new publicly owned land whose use may transform cities. The once dangerous, hot, uncrossable asphalt can now be used to ease urban crises across the world. How we decide to program this regained public space is now the largest question facing architects, developers, and urban planners. Using Chicago as a case study, Asphalt to Architecture is an exploration of this possible future.